Dunedin - New Zealand would look for an improved show with the ball in the death overs as they take on Pakistan in the third ODI with an eye on sealing the five-match series in Dunedin on Saturday (January 13). The thick cloud cover expected on game day could, however, could come in the way of Pakistan who would be fighting to keep the series alive.

The series got off to a rainy start but Pakistan 's top-order stutter meant New Zealand had the game in their bag before the showers washed away any hopes visitors harboured of a late comeback. Pakistan were reduced to 54 for 5 and later 132 for 6, in a chase of 316, when rain arrived in Wellington and they were found way short on the DLS par score.

In Nelson, however, a similar top-order slide was arrested by a stunning counter-attack from Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan, who picked up the pieces together and posted a fighting 246 on the board. The bowlers too made a promising start to their defence but with rain, and DLS, coming into the equation, Martin Guptill switched gears and sent the bowlers on a leather hunt to make it two in two for the hosts with more than an over to spare.

Pakistan 's batting woes are largely due to a brittle top-order, coupled with the fact that opener Fakhar Zaman had to sit out in Nelson due a contusion on his right leg. While Mohammad Hafeez hit a confidence-boosting half-century, nearly all other were guilty of gifting their wickets away, giving the New Zealand bowlers control until the Hasan-Shadab partnership. The series could slip out of their hands if the rest of the batting doesn't support the in-form Zaman and the experienced pair of Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in posting/chasing challenging targets.

Despite stringing together two comprehensive victories in the series so far, New Zealand would be worried with their death bowling show. Pakistan were in all sorts of trouble after being reduced to 141 for 7 in the 37th over, before Hasan and Shadab's threatening cameos helped them to 246 - a total of 105 runs added in the final 13 overs. It's an issue that has haunted them all through the summer, and captain Kane Williamson openly acknowledged the urgent need to address the concern.

Barring that, New Zealand haven't put a foot wrong this summer. Colin Munro, Guptill and Williamson's current form make them a threatening batting line-up that also bats deep. The new-ball bowling pair of Trent Boult and Tim Southee has thoroughly dominated, while Lockie Ferguson's raw pace gives the hosts an extra edge. With a 2-0 lead in the series already, New Zealand enter the contest as firm favourites. An extra incentive for the hosts would be that a win here will take their current unbeaten streak to 10 matches - equalling a feat they've already achieved twice since 2015. Incidentally, New Zealand are yet to lose an ODI at Saturday's venue.

Zaman's return will boost the Pakistan top-order, that hasn't done reasonably well. Either of Azhar Ali or Inam-ul-Haq are likely to make way for the returning opener. While Colin de Grandhomme returns after a personal break, though Kane Williamson refused to comment on whether he will make it to the playing XI or not. If he does, one of the two spinners - Mitchell Santner and Todd Astle - will have to sit out.

PAKISTAN LIKELY XI: Azhar Ali/Inam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c, wk), Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees.

NEW ZEALAND LIKELY XI: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Henry Nicholls, Colin de Grandhomme. Mitchell Santner/Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.

 

 

 

Agencies